Saturday, 12 September 2009

Let's grow cabbage in a desert

Well, here's a good idea: plant Pinot Noir in La Mancha. Yes, the world's favourite cool climate red grape in one of the hottest wine growing region's around. Even better, they're also allowing white wine producers to grow Riesling there. Brilliant.

While there are areas of altitude, of cooler microclimate, in La Mancha, it's a bit like Champagne allowing Malbec in the blend. Ah, if only it were fashionable. I'm tempted to hold judgement on the possible La Mancha Rieslings but I won't. We all know they're going to be pants.

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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Poor Jay Miller

I rarely feel sorry for people in the wine trade. But poor Jay Miller. It started with a slap-up dinner with wine importers, and questions of integrity followed. This was a few months ago. Now, with the latest saga involving Sierra Carche (he rated it highly, subsequent tastings haven’t matched up), it seems Robert Parker’s man on Spain can’t open his mouth without the collected hordes of his patron’s bulletin board jumping down his throat.

A few other bloggers also joined in to give him a good kicking and anyone recently in the vicinity of Miller will have felt his ears giving off the warmth of a patio heater. But most seemed to miss the most worrying point: that a wine tasted and rated by a critic could be different from one shipped and gobbled up by the masses.

The US importer of Sierra Carche went so far as to say it was an ‘apparent bait and switch’, and a representative for the winery admitted one lot of wine had been ‘erroneously shipped’ as Sierra Carche – but not the wine involved, it was stressed.

Enter Victor de la Serna, Spanish wines specialist and owner of Finca Sandoval who, amidst the mud-flinging at Miller/Parker/anyone in reach, descended on a silver cloud surrounded by cherubs to point out that the explanation offered by the winery/producers was ‘a total disgrace’. Quite.

All sorts of things often go wrong with wine shipments. Even I’ve opened a case of wine to find a Bordeaux Superieur masquerading as Cheval-Blanc.

But what are the issues in this case? A few points to consider*:

1 – The problem with expensive, rare, and sought-after wines, is that (a) there is little possibility of try-before-you-buy, (b) few people will have tasted it and (c) marketing mythology is preferred to business-like clarity. In short, the things that could avoid this kind of thing are precisely the things that companies behind these wines don’t want to provide. Thus they, and us, will be the victims of this again and again.

2 – Shipping/trucking/ don’t know where it’s been...

3 – Have you ever heard of this kind of thing happening the other way round – critic drinks a wine that is not as good as the rest of the batch? If so, please let me know.

*I will not use the term ‘takeaway’ other than to refer to kebabs, burgers, or any exceptionally unhealthy product that can be eaten off-premises. Those who use it in its marketing-style-speak form to denote memorable points should be lined up on a viaduct and prodded.

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